The Ratings Game: Altria may be adding a Juul to its crown if talks with e-cigarette company end in deal

Altria Group Inc. shares rose about 2% Thursday, after a Wall Street Journal report that the company is in talks to take a significant minority stake in e-cigarette startup Juul Labs Inc., with analysts saying the move could be transformational.

A deal is not imminent, the paper reported, citing people familiar with the matter, but it would also mark a major shift in the tobacco industry, which is already changing as new technologies—and regulations—emerge.

An investment in Juul “could potentially transform Altria’s NGP (next generation product) prospects in one fell swoop,” said Bernstein analyst Callum Elliott, who noted the tobacco giant has lagged rivals in keeping up with changing smoking habits.

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